EEOC Settles Another NY LOSAP Age Discrimination Suit

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the settlement of yet another age-discrimination lawsuit against volunteer fire departments in New York involving their length of service award programs (LOSAP).

The suit was brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), against The Village of North Syracuse, the Town of Cicero and the Town of Clay, as well as the North Syracuse Fire Department, the Cicero Fire Department, the Clay Volunteer Fire Department, the Moyers Corner Fire Department, and the Cicero Fire District.

The defendants have agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to their firefighters who lost pension benefits, including several who will receive increased future monthly pension amounts.

The suit is similar to at least ten others (by my count) filed by the EEOC since 2006 alleging that the LOSAP programs violate the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) because they prohibit active members over a certain age from continuing to accrue LOSAP pension benefits.

Here is the full text of the EEOC press release:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          CONTACT:

April 2, 2013                                                                          

Michael J. O'Brien, Senior Trial Attorney  212-336-3694

Bryan D. White, Program Analyst    347-213-8821 

TTY: (212) 336-3622

 

VILLAGE OF NORTH SYRACUSE AND TOWNS OF CICERO AND CLAY SETTLE EEOC AGE DISCRIMINATION SUIT

Older Volunteer Firefighters Denied Service Credit Due to Ageism, Federal Agency Charged

            NEW YORK – The Village of North Syracuse, the Town of Cicero and the Town of Clay have agreed to settle a class age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  Those localities, as well as the North Syracuse Fire Department, the Cicero Fire Department, the Clay Volunteer Fire Depart­ment, the Moyers Corner Fire Department, and the Cicero Fire District, will pay a group of firefighters lost pension benefits as well as provide several firefighters increased future monthly pension amounts.

            The EEOC's suit had charged that from the early 1990s through the late 2000s, the eight defendants had refused to let volunteer firefighters accrue credit toward a "length of service award program" (LOSAP), the equivalent of a retirement pension, because of their age, either 60 or 62 depending on the fire department.  As a result, senior firefighters lost pension amounts, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a federal law that protects workers age 40 and older from age discrimination.  Although North Syracuse, Cicero, and Clay had amended the LOSAPs to allow firefighters to earn credit without regard to age, the amend­ment did not provide for lost benefits.  The EEOC filed suit, No. 12-cv-1265, after first attempt­ing to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

            Under the terms of the agreement, North Syracuse, Clay, Cicero, and the Fire District have agreed to provide the EEOC with contact information for affected firefighters, and the EEOC will contact the firefighters to ascertain lost pension amounts.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks in Syracuse will oversee the process.

            "The brave men and women who volunteered to fight fires deserve to be treated equally, without regard to age," said EEOC Trial Attorney Michael J. O'Brien.  "We welcome the decision to settle this case in a way that ensures that these firefighters, who do heroic work, do not receive different retirement benefits simply because of their age."

Elizabeth Grossman, the EEOC's regional attorney in New York, added, "This case should remind all employers, including municipalities, that federal law prohibits targeting older workers for discriminatory treatment, including in relation to pensions or retirement benefits."

            The EEOC enforces federal laws banning workplace discrimination.  Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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